Pacifique’s conjungations 1–3: “Animate Intransitive”

Alan and I spent some time this past week working through the “conjugations” given in Pacifique (Hewson & Francis 1990 translation). Below is the first installment: the first three conjugations, or the “animate intransitives” (we checked most of these over, but please correct us if you see we’ve transcribed something wrong).

First a few background notes, which will be relevant for the rest of the paradigms as well. “Intransitive” verbs are those that have just a subject, like “I danced” or “Mary slept”, not a subject and an object as in “I read the book.” These are “animate” intransitives because the subject must be animate. In Mi’gmaq, as in other Algonquian languages, “animate” is a grammatical category (comparable to “feminine” and “masculine” in French). Humans and animals are generally animate, but so are bottles and potatoes. Each of the forms below involves a single animate participant. Stay tuned for wiki info on animacy; a different conjugation will be given for intransitives with inanimate subjects.

The paradigms below have are in the form of this first table, where I’ve given English versions of the “person” and “number” distinctions. Note that Mi’gmaq makes two distinctions not found in English. Where as English distinguishes between singular (one) and plural (more than one), Mi’gmaq makes a three-way distinction: singular (one), dual (two), and plural (more than two). Mi’gmaq also distinguishes different kinds of first person in the dual and plural forms (forms equivalent to “we”). In English, if I say “we” I could be referring to me and someone else in the discourse (“yesterday when you weren’t here, we went to the store”), or to me and the listener, and possibly others (“we have a lot of work to do, let’s go!”). In Mi’gmaq the first kind is the “exclusive” (excluding the listener), while the second is called the “inclusive” (including the listener). Finally, because Mi’gmaq encodes the information about the subject on the verb, an overt noun or pronoun is not necessary (compare Spanish). More on this in a separate post.

singular dual plural
1st person(excl)  I we (two, not you) we (plural, not you)
1st person(incl) we (two, including you) we (plural, including you)
2nd person you you guys (two) you guys (plural)
3rd person he, she, it them (two) them (plural)

Now for the paradigms. These paradigms are helpful because once you know one form of a given verb, you know the others. For example, if you hear [amalgai] “I dance”, you know that “they (pl) dance” will be [amalga’tijig]. Furthermore, note that while these are listed as three different conjugations, you don’t actually need to memorize three different paradigms. Instead, the main difference between the three forms is the first vowel: no vowel in 1, [a] in 2, and [e] in 3 (if you know Spanish, you can think of these as being comparable to -ar, -er, and -ir verbs; comparable distinction in French). So you just have to memorize the endings in the first paradigm, the others will be the same with the addition of the initial “stem vowel”, with one of important difference: In the first conjugation, if you compare the dual and plural columns, you see that plural involves the addition of [-ult]. In the second and third conjugations, the [u] is dropped. In the second conjugation, the stem vowel is lengthened: [-a’t]. In the third conjugation, a reduced vowel (represented with the apostrophe) is present [-‘t].

One more helpful thing to note is that the sound [t] frequently becomes [j] before a vowel. This means that the difference between the 3rd person singular [-it] and the third person plural [-ijig] can be thought of as the addition of the plural marker [-ig] plus the sound change: [-it-ig] becomes [-ijig]. We will see the [-ig] marking plural elsewhere in the language.

VAI “1st conjugation”: teluis- “to be named”

singular dual plural
1st person(excl) -i -ieg -ultieg
1st person(incl) -i’gw -ulti’gw
2nd person -in -ioq -ultioq
3rd person -it -ijig -ultijig

VAI – “2nd conjugation”; amalg- “to dance”; alangu- “to shop”; a’sutm- “to pray”; gaqnm- “to be out of things”

singular dual plural
1st person(excl) -ai -aieg -a’t-ieg
1st person(incl) -aigw -a’ti’gw
2nd person -an -aioq -a’tioq
3rd person -at -ajig -a’tijig

VAI – “3rd conjugation”; ewi’gig- “to write”

singular dual plural
1st person(excl) -ei -eieg -’tieg
1st person(incl) -eigw -’ti’gw
2nd person -en -eioq -’tioq
3rd person -et -ejig -’tijig

McGill team: could someone take charge of getting this up on the wiki? The Pacifique grammar also gives more examples of each conjugation, which would be helpful to have, and could be worked into CAN8 lessons. The verb forms should be checked over with a speaker, and let’s try to include more frequently used verbs, or verbs that will be useful in everyday conversation. Eventually we’ll want to put up at least negative and past forms––maybe in tables hyper-linked from this one.

Mi’gmaq speakers: please add comments if you see mistakes or can think of any helpful examples or frequently used verbs.

15 thoughts on “Pacifique’s conjungations 1–3: “Animate Intransitive”

  1. This is great Jessica! I have been working on explaining the different kinds of conjugations (i.e. Indicative, Conditional, Subordinative…) and making tables of endings like the ones you have included… I work on putting this on the wiki & have something to talk about at the next meeting…

  2. This looks really useful and I’m sure I’ll be referring to it a lot. I was about to volunteer to wiki it but it looks like Mike has that covered — let me know if you want any help Mike!

  3. Thanks guys. Gretchen, at some point I think you found a nice-looking media wiki table format… do I remember this correctly? If so, it might be nice to pick a standardized table format, since we’ll probably have a number of paradigms that look like this.

    Another question is how much information to include in the verb glosses. For example, the form “teluisi”, could be parsed a number of different ways:


    But one could imagine including “1SG”, or parsing the stem as “be.called(VAI).PRES”, and I think we’ve seen variants of these elsewhere. Unless there are objections, I’d like to suggest keeping the glosses fairly minimal. I think there are a few reasons for this.

    One is obviously to cut down on length. Another, at least with respect to the stems, is that the nominal arguments involved should tell us what type of verb it is––and a given stem isn’t necessarily specified as VAI or VII, rather, it takes different endings depending on what kind of noun it combines with. If we see only a single animate argument, we know it’s VAI, if we see two animate arguments, we know it’s VTA, etc.

    For number, I think the absence of “DL” (is this how to abbreviate dual?) or “PL” can imply singular. And leaving out “PRES” on the unmarked forms may also make sense, since these have a broader range of meanings than e.g. English present tense forms. The bare Mi’gmaq forms cover at least present imperfective and progressive.

    I think what is important is knowing where to parse out the stem, and I think the paradigms above will help with this.

    Some final related questions, with the 2nd and 3rd conjugations, is whether to parse out the “theme vowel” with the ending or with the stem. I think I’d suggest the former, following Pacifique, so we’d have:

    ewi’gig-en (not: ewi’gige-n)
    “You write”

    “You (dual) write”

    “You (plural) write”

    But I could also imagine arguing for the opposite, so let’s talk about this.

    Another question, one that came up last term: how to parse out the plurals? Glossing the -ioq form as “dual” is actually a bit misleading, for two reasons: 1. it also appears in the plural forms, and strange to parse -‘t-ioq as “PL-2DL”, and 2. once we get to VTA, which we’ll post soon, we’ll see that the same forms that are in the dual column mark plural (no plural vs. dual distinction with transitives). Alan, this might be a question for you.

    Mike, have you worked out what the person glosses will be for the first plurals? Will we use “13” and “12” for first plural exclusive/inclusive?

    • I think I’ve seen the -ioq type forms glossed as “non-singular” in other literature. Which although it may be weird to gloss things using an opposite, this might actually be the most accurate route?

      I made several tables on the old wiki, so if we have one there that we particularly like the format of or if we want to make a new one with standard formatting, then maybe we can make an additional page to post templates for tables (or include them on the gloss page). This could be just blank table formatting that people could copy-paste and then fill in words for, which might be easier.

  4. Good work, Jessica!

    Just wanted to make a correction on the following:
    VAI – “1st”,“2nd” and “3rd” conjugations
    1st person (incl.) – remove the (-i’wg ), (-ulti’wg),(-aiwg), (-a’ti’wg), (-eiwg),(-’ti’wg) in all examples.

    Other examples for …
    VAI – “2nd conjugation”
    alangu- “to shop”; a’sutm-“to pray”, gaqnm- “out of things, supplies, food, etc.)
    singular dual plural
    1st person(excl) -ai -aieg -a’tieg
    1st person(incl) -aigw -a’ti’gw
    2nd person -an -aioq -a’tioq
    3rd person -at -ajig -a’tijig

    The example in the 2nd conjugation; you gave amalg- to dance is conjugated…

    amalgai, I dance (first person singular animate)
    amalgaieg, We dance (first person dual exclusive animate)
    amalgaltieg, We dance (first person plural exclusive animate)
    (source – Mi’gmaq-Mi’kmaq Online)

    We can investigate where this ‘l’ came into play; right now I don’t have any examples.

    • Thanks Mary Ann! I made the changes you suggested. I’m interested in the “to shop” example, since it also ends in a vowel. Does this mean that “I shop” would be [alanguai]?

      Also, do you have any thoughts about whether the -a and -e vowels in the 2nd and 3rd conjugations should be treated as part of the verb? or part of the ending? This isn’t really crucial, but we wonder whether we should parse out [amalgai] as [amalg-ai] or [amalga-i]. Do you think of them as one way or the other? I could imagine reasons to do it either way. Wela’lin!

      • I think when I was talking to Janine last semester about “amalgai” in particular, she had identified “amal” as a preverb (or maybe an initial, but I’m not sure if there’s really a difference here) meaning “awkwardly” and “g” as referring to the feet. So I would guess that for this particular word, at least, that the “a” is also separate from the “g”, but that may not be the case for all verbs, or it may actually be “ga” that refers to the feet.

        • Interesting! I wonder if all of the verbs involving “g” are in the “a” conjugation? It would be interesting to see if we can find regularities like this, might also be helpful for learners.

          • Yeah, this is something I’d wonder about. I’m pretty sure that “g” in amalgai is generally called a final, and another example of a final is “t” which refers to thinking. Some more examples of the “g” in amalgai (I think the “tes” part refers to some type of contact):

            teg-tes-g-at tuwaqan
            ‘s/he kicks the ball’
            ‘I am bicycling’

            And some examples of “t” are:
            ‘I think, ponder’
            ‘I forget’
            ‘I have happy thoughts’
            ‘I am courageous (lit. I have hard thoughts)’

            Anyway, as we can see here the examples so far seem to all have an “a” after the g/t but there may be others I’m not aware of that have a different vowel.

        • Correction on “amal” from Mary Ann (via email). ‘Awkwardly’ isn’t really correct, it’s more accurate to say that ‘amal’ means ‘fancy’ or ‘no particular design’. Some examples:

          amallugwei- hobby
          amalgai – no particular movement with the feet (ngatl)
          amalisgnuei – fancy knitting/crochet

          Now I’m wondering if it has anything to do with the preverb “al” meaning “around, in no particular direction”, as in “ala’si” “I wander around” (I think). Maybe it’s something like am+al?

  5. Great work Jessica! And thanks for the corrections Mary Ann!
    I thought about whether we should minimally or maximally gloss & originally thought it was better to err on the side of maximally glossing for clarity, especially given that we would like to appeal to the widest audience (and getting rid of extra data could be done easily with find & replace, but would be painful to add). But if we have a page that is very clear and discusses each verb order and what we assume (i.e. assume singular & only gloss number if dual [DU] or plural [PL]). I have been thinking that the glossing page could cover some of this info, but a verb page would need to cover more details…

    Also, following the Leipzig Glossing conventions, how about 1.INCL for 1st person inclusive & 1.EXCL for 1st person exclusive? This seems reasonable…

    • Yes, I guess the question is how maximal is maximal––I think there are some things, e.g. “indicative”, “present” that are implicit if not otherwise marked, and might be worth leaving out, if for no other reason than it would be easy to forget to include them sometimes, and that might be more confusing. But let’s bring this up to the group on Wednesday.

      I think 1.INCL and 1.EXCL is good, but wondered if “12” is more common in Algonquian, and I guess has the benefit of making it very clear that the second person is involved, since when we get to the VTAs this will become more apparent (e.g., you start seeing second person agreement markers showing up in first person inclusive forms). Another topic for discussion!

      • Yeah, I think I’ve also seen 12 and 13 as more common, and I think this fits better with what I think I remember seeing in the classroom in Listuguj, something about talking about the first person inclusive as “ni’n + gil”, etc. This might be less intimidating than exclusive/inclusive.

        I think it might make sense to mark the things that seem to have direct morphemes that correspond to them (like -p or -g’p shows up for past) and then not mark the things that don’t have morphemes?

        • Yes, I agree with this general idea, on the other hand, we may run into trouble in the future, for example, where I think there is no future “morpheme”––rather, you get a different set of person endings. We can discuss these as we post, perhaps.

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